x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Coming from India, my cousin is worried about cricket in Dubai

Coming from cricket-obsessed India, my cousin is worried that Dubai won't have much to offer by way of sport, apart from maybe camel racing or who-can-build-the-tallest-skyscraper.

My 13-year-old cousin Navjot is moving to Dubai from India and has his head filled with the usual stereotypes. He's the type who checks the cricket scores every half-hour and smashes his neighbours' windows hitting sixes. Coming from a cricket-obsessed nation, he's worried that Dubai won't have much to offer by way of sport, apart from maybe camel racing or who-can-build-the-tallest-skyscraper. I told him to stop spouting twaddle.

The fact is that Dubai simply has so much to offer for the average idle teen. Here you can strap off your snowboard, then change into beachwear and drive for a spot of wakeboarding in the sun. Oh dear, I sound like an advertisement for the city they might show on an Emirates Airline flight.

Life here has been pleasantly crammed full of things to try and skills to learn, successfully or not. I have mixed emotions about ice-skating lessons in The Dubai Mall, where it was great showing off tricks until I tripped facedown on to rock-hard ice and emerged covered with bruises, which occurred far too many times for comfort.

These were exchanged the next year for skiing lessons at Ski Dubai instead, where powdery snow was much more bearable to belly flop into when you lost control. My moment of glory happened when I won a silver medal in slalom racing and got a lovely Spyder fleece jacket and a mug as prizes. I neglected to mention to anyone later that I'd won the silver medal in the girls' category. Two girls competed.

Playing football with the Manchester United Soccer Schools, matches were spent valiantly running up and down the field as if I were training for a marathon, though I never got anywhere near kicking the ball. I did manage to tackle a weedy little boy once, sending him stumbling. I was so surprised with my hitherto unsuspected tackling skills that I promptly stopped to apologise to the equally stunned boy. At parents' evening in school, my proud soccer mum pressed my coach, Andy, about my performance. He kindly went on about a great attitude, nice manners and "listening skills". He delicately skipped over the fact I couldn't control a ball to save my life, then racked his brains and added: "She's very well behaved - on and off the field."

I should have learnt I'm not athletically inclined, but many teens have had infinite fun seizing the opportunities here, which stretch from Bollywood dancing with Shiamak Davar to snorkelling with sharks as a marine biology intern at the Atlantis hotel. Being a ball-kid to Roger Federer, a walking scorer at the Dubai Ladies Masters, dinghy sailing at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club - where my boat kept capsizing- there have been so many rich experiences.

Teenagers moving to Dubai are more likely to be baffled by the enormous range of stuff to do available than be faced with a dearth of stimulating physical exercise. I'm forecasting Navjot's weekends are going to be too packed to make time to visit his no-doubt favourite cousin.


The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai